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Veni, Vedi, Comedit: Cookbooks of Real Regional Recipes from Italy

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albert, Joanna, Simon Owens and 10 others found this witty
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I, like many, many other individuals on this planet, took a trip to Italy with the intention of eating my weight in breadsticks and pasta. After a week of travelling through Northern Italy, my view of Italian cuisine had transformed into something so wonderfully different from that of what I observed growing up next to an Olive Garden. My eagerness to try new dishes led me on a wonderful journey through pickled octopus, goats cheese drizzled with mulberry syrup, and most simply, freshly baked focaccia dipped in reduced balsamic vinegar. 

I came away from my vacation with the steadfast belief in two things: 

  • Italian cuisine is an elegant assembly of fresh ingredients, meant to be deeply appreciated and enjoyed communally, and 
  • I really fucking love focaccia.

Much like its neighbours along the Mediterranean, Italy's varied landscape and amiable weather patterns allow for fresh ingredients all year round. So it's unsurprising that Italian restaurants in colder climates only offer the classic staples of pizza, pasta, and caprese salad. 

But reality offers a far more varied menu. The below cookbooks offer a more realistic glimpse into what Italian cuisine entails – from yes, pizza and pasta, to seafood, stews, and dishes like spicy fish with couscous from the largely undocumented Sephardic Jewish cuisine. 

Oh, and focaccia too. We can't forget the focaccia. 

The Silver Spoon

The Silver Spoon was the first English edition of the bestselling Italian cookbook of the last fifty years, Il cucchiaio d'argento. With over 2,000 recipes, its simple style and authenticity has made it the definitive, bestselling book on Italian cooking, for both gourmets and beginners. Following its phenomenal success, this new updated and revised edition is illustrated with newly commissioned photography and includes new menus by celebrated Italian chefs.

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Tasting Rome

Even 150 years after unification, Italy is still a divided nation where individual regions are defined by their local cuisine. Each is a mirror of its city’s culture, history, and geography. But cucina romana is the country’s greatest standout.

Tasting Rome provides a complete picture of a place that many love, but few know completely. In sharing Rome’s celebrated dishes, street food innovations, and forgotten recipes, journalist Katie Parla and photographer Kristina Gill capture its unique character and reveal its truly evolved food culture—a culmination of 2000 years of history. Their recipes acknowledge the foundations of Roman cuisine and demonstrate how it has transitioned to the variations found today. You’ll delight in the expected classics; the fascinating but largely undocumented Sephardic Jewish cuisine; and so much more.

Studded with narrative features that capture the city’s history and gorgeous photography that highlights both the food and its hidden city, you’ll feel immediately inspired to start tasting Rome in your own kitchen. 

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Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well

First published in 1891, Pellegrino Artusi's La scienza in cucina e l'arte di mangier bene has come to be recognized as the most significant Italian cookbook of modern times. It was reprinted thirteen times and had sold more than 52,000 copies in the years before Artusi's death in 1910, with the number of recipes growing from 475 to 790. And while this figure has not changed, the book has consistently remained in print. Although Artusi was himself of the upper classes and it was doubtful he had ever touched a kitchen utensil or lit a fire under a pot, he wrote the book not for professional chefs, as was the nineteenth-century custom, but for middle-class family cooks: housewives and their domestic helpers. His tone is that of a friendly advisor - humorous and nonchalant. He indulges in witty anecdotes about many of the recipes, describing his experiences and the historical relevance of particular dishes. Artusi's masterpiece is not merely a popular cookbook; it is a landmark work in Italian culture. This English edition (first published by Marsilio Publishers in 1997) features a delightful introduction by Luigi Ballerini that traces the fascinating history of the book and explains its importance in the context of Italian history and politics. The illustrations are by the noted Italian artist Giuliano Della Casa.

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Made in Italy

An exquisitely designed volume of innovative restaurant dishes and old family favourites from Giorgio Locatelli, Britain's best-loved Italian chef and restaurateur. Opening with an extensive guide to preparing antipasti and culminating in a mouth-watering selection of desserts - via soups, risotto, pasta, fish and meat dishes - Giorgio Locatelli's masterpiece is the must-have contemporary Italian food bible, seamlessly combining the historical insight of a food writer with the hands-on expertise of a top chef. Peppered with evocative anecdotes and outspoken observations on the state of modern food, Giorgio Locatelli's definitive and universally celebrated compendium is a delight to read and cook from.

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The Florentine

Florentine is a dedication to the beauty of Florence and its classically earthy and rustic cuisine, replete with seventy traditional Florentine recipes and evocative location photography. Florentine is a collection of delicious recipes and stunning photographs from Tuscany s capital. Emiko Davies draws on her personal experience of traditional Florentine cuisine to share recipes that transport readers to the piazzas of Florence. From the morning ritual of la pasticceria (the pastry shop) and il forno (the bakery), the tantalizing fresh produce of il mercato (the market) and il macellaio (the butcher) through to the evening romance of la trattoria, it will take you on a unique stroll through the city s streets to the heart of its culture. Davies delves into the stories behind the dishes, their culinary history, and gastronomic traditions to reveal why the people of Florence remain proudly attached to their unchanging cuisine a cuisine that tells the unique story of its city, dish by dish.

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Veneto

Introducing Italy's best kept secret. The cuisine of the Veneto. Food-writer, cook and photographer Valeria Necchio shares the food and flavours at the heart of the Veneto region in North Eastern Italy. Veneto includes lovingly written recipes that capture the spirit of this beautiful and often unexplored region, and Valeria's memories of the people and places that make the Veneto so special. Packed with fresh ingredients and lively flavours, the recipes range from the dramatic black cuttlefish stew, through soups, pastas and risottos, a mouthwatering selection of Italian sweet treats, and sweet and savoury preserves for your pantry to ensure year-round deliciousness.

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Cooking with Italian Grandmothers

American chef Jessica Theroux spent a year traveling throughout Italy, cooking and talking with Italian grandmothers, learning their secrets and listening to their stories. The result is a charming and authentic collection of recipes, techniques, anecdotes, and photographs that celebrate the rustic and sustainable culinary traditions of Italy's most experienced home cooks. Cooking with Italian Grandmothers features the histories and menus of fifteen grandmothers, each of whom welcomed Ms. Theroux into their kitchens and pantries and shared both their favorite dishes and personal wisdoms. From the dramatic winter shores if Ustica to the blooming hills of Tuscany in spring, readers will journey through Italy's most divers regions and seasons, to discover the country's most delectable dishes, from the traditional to the unexpected, and meet the storied women who make them. Part travel diary, part photo essay, part cookbook, Cooking with Italian Grandmothers features over 100 time-honored recipes, from the perfect panna cotta to the classic meat lasagna.

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Do you have a favourite Italian cookbook that I missed here? Let me know in the comments below.

Egyptian-American food enthusiast born in Chicago, raised in Beirut, and living in Dublin. Regional Ambassador at Bookwitty. Intimately familiar with the term "identity crisis".

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albert, Joanna, Simon Owens and 10 others found this witty
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